Research

I am interested in the confluent histories of race, the environment, media and knowledge-making in the Atlantic world from the seventeenth century up through the present, with a particular emphasis on southern and Caribbean plantation zones.  My early work involved a study of the Anglophone transatlantic networks and rhetorics of knowledge production around American nature, called American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World (UNCP, 2006), a winner of both the Jamestown and Emerson Prizes.  Articles followed on such Anglo-Atlantic figures as William Byrd II, Robert Beverley, John Gabriel Stedman, and Richard Ligon.  My second book, The Flood Year 1927: A Cultural History (Princeton UP, 2017), examines how the most devastating, and publicly absorbing, US flood of the 20th century took on meaning as it moved across media platforms, across sectional divides and across the color line. It received  the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize (Honorable Mention) and ASLE’s biennial book prize for the best book of ecocriticism (Honorable Mention).

Current projects include The Cambridge Companion to American Literature and the Environment, co-edited with Sarah Ensor (May 2022); a Norton Critical Edition of William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (2022); an essay exploring the shared histories of the novel and disaster from Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year to Ward’s Salvage the Bones in Critical Disaster Studies (UPennP, 2021); and an article, “Jordan Peele’s Get Out and the Mediation of History” in Representations 155.1 (Summer 2021). I am also working on a book-length study, provisionally titled “Modern Temperatures: Inventing and Inhabiting Climate and Race in the U.S.”; it focuses on the post-1900 period to assess the career of American race as three processes unfolded: populations construed as either tropical or Nordic migrated out of their ’natural’ geography, indoor climates became controlled at a mass scale, and external climates became more extreme.

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